ISLAMABAD: Cases that were closed as a result of amendments made in the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) by the PDM government have been revived by accountability courts after the Supreme Court set aside the amendments last week.
An apex court bench, headed by former Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial, had on Sept 15 declared the amendments void and directed the NAB to revive the closed cases within seven days.
NAB sources said that the cases had been returned to the accountability courts of Islamabad, Rawalpindi and Quetta.
NAB prosecution submitted the record of 80 cases to the accountability court, Islamabad.
It may be mentioned that the judges of two accountability courts were transferred as the amended law curtailed the NAB’s jurisdiction.
Zardari, Gilani, Shaukat Aziz among those who will be facing cases
The cases transmitted to the local accountability court included the Park Lane case against PPP leader Asif Ali Zardari, Universal Services Funds in which former prime minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani and others are suspects, the Rental Power Projects case against NA speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, and the case of Benazir Income Support Programme’s former chairperson Farzana Raja.
The Supreme Court in its ordered had directed: “The NAB and/or all other fora shall forthwith return the record of all such matters to the relevant fora and in any event not later than seven days from today, which shall be proceeded with in accordance with law from the same stage these were at when the same were disposed of/closed/returned.”
It explained that Section 3 of the Second Amendment pertaining to Section 5(o) of NAO sets the minimum pecuniary threshold of NAB at Rs500 million and Section 2 of the 2022 amendments pertaining to Section 4, which limits the application of the ordinance by creating exceptions for public office-holders, were declared void ab initio.
Likewise, Section 3 of the Second Amendment and Section 2 of the 2022 amendments pertaining to Section 5(o) and Section 4 of the NAO were declared to be valid.
Under this provision, the persons in the service of Pakistan have been omitted from the NAO since these persons can still be tried under the Prevention of Corruption Act 1947 for the offence of corruption and corrupt practices even if they stand excluded from the jurisdiction of NAB.
The phrase “through corrupt and dishonest means” inserted in Section 9(a)(v) of the NAB ordinance along with its Explanation II was also struck down from the date of commencement of the First Amendment for references filed against elected holders of public office. Similarly, Section 14 was also omitted, which allowed the accountability court to draw different evidentiary presumptions against the suspects.
Likewise, Section 21(g) of NAO was restored from the date of the commencement of the First Amendment. The amendment had omitted this provision, which allowed evidentiary material transferred by a foreign government through Mutual Legal Assistance as evidence. Consequently, Sections 10 and 14 of the First Amendment are declared void.
Therefore, “all orders passed by the NAB and/or the Accountability Courts placing reliance on the above sections are declared null and void and of no legal effect”, the judgement said.
Published in Dawn, September 22nd, 2023